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Who are the Chinese in Africa?

From Algeria to Angola, the Chinese population across Africa is growing rapidly. In less than a decade, hundreds of thousands of immigrants have made the long journey from mainland China to cities and villages throughout the continent.  Today, as this vast population settles in, they are having a transformative effect on the culture, economics and even politics of their new African communities.
There are no precise figures on just how many Chinese live in Africa. Estimates, though, place the number of immigrants somewhere between 750,000 and a million continent-wide. If those estimates are accurate, it means there are more Chinese migrants living in Africa today then there were expatriate French people at the peak of their African empire in the mid-20thcentury.

But just who are all these Chinese people and what draws them to Africa?

It should go without saying that any population as large and diverse as the Chinese defies simple characterization. The Chinese immigrant population in Africa is extremely diverse across all lines of class and culture.  In my experience, overseas Chinese migrants on the continent can broadly be divided into four distinct categories:

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What is The China-Global South Project?


The China-Global South Project is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Global South stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalists and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Global South discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.